France's Tried to Make Its Own 'Tomahawk' Missile (But It Isn't Going Well)

Charlie Gao

Key point: France's MdCN and SCALP missiles have performed poorly in Syria.

The jury is still out on how effective Russian and Syrian air defenses were in the April 18, 2018, missile strikes against Syria. While the United States claims that all missiles hit the targets and the Russian MoD claims that over 65 percent of the missiles were intercepted, the truth may not be known for some time.

What is known is that some missiles suffered considerable technical difficulties during the strike. The French MdCN and SCALP cruise missiles had the worst performance, misfiring or not even firing at all in some cases. What are some reasons for this happening? Is it the relative immaturity of these weapons and their integration on the launching platforms? Could this potentially hurt sales of the MdCN?

The MdCN and SCALP missiles are closely related. The MdCN is the naval vertical launched cruise missile version of the SCALP, which was an evolution of an earlier runway-busting missile. Both the MdCN and SCALP have similar characteristics: weights slightly shy of half a metric ton and a length of around half a meter.

The primary difference is that the MdCN uses a booster during its launch phase to break out of the ship and gain some initial velocity, whereas the SCALP inherits that when it is launched from a plane. This booster gives the MdCN significantly increased range. One source cites one thousand kilometers for the MdCN versus four hundred kilometers for the SCALP.

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